Monday, December 10, 2012

Horticultural Knives for Christmas

 
Photo of a Pruner from Tina~

One of the most important things for success in the garden are tools and yet so many gardeners use tired, rusty, and antiquated tools which make any job more difficult. With Christmas rapidly approaching, an ideal gift for the gardener would be an oft overlooked time-saving device… the gardening knife. Available in styles for differing chores, knives include grafting and pruning with even a left handed Horticultural Knife by Tina which is a ‘must’ for lefties.

The blade is of utmost importance and variations in design represent the practical and accumulated experience of hundreds of generations who have gone before us. The ancient Romans had a pruning knife, falculae arboraire, which was remarkably similar to grape pruning knives of the early 1930’s. The use of the same design for 2,000 years is surely not an accident making it a well tested product. A single blade has strength unto itself and will out perform any multi bladed knife tenfold. The more blades on a knife, the weaker it becomes making the popular Swiss Army knife unacceptable in the garden.

An important factor is a blade which sharpens, stays sharp, and has a keen cut through many uses. No matter how attractive the knife, it is only as good as the hardness of the steel from which it was made. Carbon steel, while strong and used for hundreds of years, will rust if not oiled and put away after use. Prior to the 1950’s, and the process of ‘chill-quenching’, the tempering of stainless steel was hit or miss making it impractical for gardening use. It now has an edge comparable to carbon steel and is virtually rust-proof.

It is important when considering the purchase of a gardening knife that one ignores any product originating in China. As any one who has purchased a hammer from China knows, the steel is not hardened correctly and it will not stand the test of time. One of the premier manufacturers of gardening knives is a German company, Tina, who maintains the tradition of knife making and still uses the carbon steel and completes the process by placing the blade in a walnut stock. There is a lovely Florist’s knife from Schrade, American company, and a wonderful Budding and Grafting knife by Swiss makers Victorinox. Short of giving a ton of exquisitely composted cattle manure, a knife is the next-best gift for the gardener you love.